By Susan Crabtree - 04/05/07 04:12 PM EDT
Ahead of Alberto Gonzales’s April 17 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wants the attorney general to answer questions regarding his role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Leahy sent Gonzales a letter Thursday asking him to provide a “full and complete” account of the development of the plan to replace U.S. attorneys and “all the specifics” of his role in connection to the matter. Committee rules require witnesses to submit written statements to the panel at least 48 hours before a hearing, if not earlier.
“This information will be useful for the Committee and it could help expedite the questioning on that matter during the hearing,” Leahy wrote.
Leahy also reminded Gonzales that Judiciary staffers had offered him earlier dates to testify in March and April, which he rejected. In the last week, Department of Justice (DoJ) officials have expressed interest in moving up the testimony date as evidence has mounted linking Gonzales more closely to the firings than previously disclosed. His former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, testified last week that Gonzales was involved, directly contradicting the attorney general’s earlier claims.
“As you will recall, my staff suggested earlier dates, in March and earlier in April, but you had declined those offers and suggested the 17th,” Leahy wrote. “The Committee set the hearing for that date to accommodate you.”
Leahy scolded Gonzales for sending previously requested answers to committee questions six months late, and for failing to respond to questions stemming from a Jan. 18 Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, urging him to do so promptly. Leahy complained that the DoJ had yet to provide answers to December questions directed toward FBI Director Robert Mueller, although the committee received a letter from Mueller’s staff indicating that he had responded.
“You could not tolerate this kind of response time in a Justice Department investigation where months go by without answers and when those answers are finally provided they are outdated or superseded by events,” Leahy concluded. “That is not conducive to effective oversight.”
Also on Thursday, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations subcommittee, postponed indefinitely a hearing on the fiscal year 2008 DOJ budget in response to the U.S. attorney controversy.
“As Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the agency, I believe it would be very difficult in this environment to give the Department’s budget request the attention it deserves until the Senate has examined the Department’s leadership failures,” she said in a release.